FA Cup fourth round: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Will Daniel Sturridge get a chance to regain his verve? Will Ranieri fine-tune for a relegation battle? Will Ravel Morrison return to Old Trafford?

1) Revitalised Lincoln face biggest challenge yet

A clutch of (fool)hardy Lincoln City fans queued through Wednesday night in sub-zero temperatures in order to get their gloved hands on the last tickets for their clubs biggest and indeed only fourth-round FA Cup tie since 1976. Those fans were evidently not discouraged by the fact that the National League leaders had suffered their heaviest defeat of the season the previous night, when they were beaten 3-0 by Barrow, whose rugged approach on a treacherous pitch fairly knocked Danny Cowleys men out of their impish stride. The Championship leaders, Brighton, will probably not resort to such robust tactics but are still likely to provide the toughest test yet for a Lincoln side who have already beaten two opponents from leagues above them. The Cup run has generated around 500,000 for the club and given special memories for a generation of supporters who are dreaming of even better days ahead, starting, just maybe, on Saturday. PD

2) Will Sturridge get the chance to regain his verve?

Jrgen Klopp was frustrated by Liverpools poor finishing against Southampton on Wednesday. This weekend his team could have an ideal chance to finetune it, as suspension has deprived the lower league visitors, Wolverhampton Wanderers, of their first-choice goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme. But with Chelsea to come three days later Klopp seems likely to field a side featuring many reserves, as against Plymouth in the last round. It will be interesting to see whether Daniel Sturridge starts and, if he does, whether his performance perks up. It will also be interesting to see how the Anfield crowd reacts if Wolves begin well and threaten to add to Liverpools woeful start to 2017. The last time Wolves won at Anfield, in 2010-11, the home fans gave a memorable example of terrace wit when they began advocating a hilarious stunt. Hodgson for England! they bawled, possibly not expecting the FA to take the suggestion seriously and employ their then manager. Roy Hodgson complained afterwards that ever since Ive been here the famous Anfield support hasnt been there. Klopp, by contrast, has been hailed as a potential saviour ever since his arrival. Belief in him remains strong among Liverpool fans but some of his recent decisions are testing their faith. PD

Daniel Sturridge squirts water over his face ahead of the EFL Cup semi final second leg match between Liverpool and Southampton. Photograph: Greenwood/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

3) Ranieri has a chance to fine-tune for relegation battle

Wilfred Ndidi made a brilliant first impression on his Leicester City debut, against Everton in the previous round, but Claudio Ranieri is still searching for his ideal midfield make-up and shape. He may, then, welcome this match as an opportunity to develop a solution before resuming the fight against relegation from the Premier League. On the other hand, another match could be construed as too much of a burden for Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, the main victims of the clubs uneven recruitment last summer. Maybe, then, Claudio Ranieri will use this match to release Yohan Benalouane from suspended animation? The centre-back has been curiously absent from the managers plans for most of the season but was a surprising inclusion on the bench for the last match, a 3-0 defeat at Southampton. A return to action would be intriguing and perhaps even solve a major Leicester problem, especially if they do not sign another centre-back before the and of this month. On a similar note, and returning to the midfield shuffle, Bartosz Kapustka got six whole minutes against Everton it would be good to get another glimpse of the gifted young Pole some time soon. PD

4) Rochdale have another Yorkshire scalp in sight

With Huddersfield having sold all 3,500 tickets allocated to them, Spotland is likely to have its biggest crowd of the season for this Lancashire-Yorkshire clash, with home supporters hopeful of witnessing something similar to their impressive toppling of Leeds United in 2014. That could create exactly the right mood to uplift Keith Hills side, whose promotion challenge in League One has been dented recently by injuries and loss of form. David Wagner, meanwhile, is likely to make several changes to his usual Huddersfield lineup and that could mean a return to action for Harry Bunn, who has not played since excelling in the win over Port Vale in the last round. PD

5) Joyce may bring Morrison along to Old Trafford reunion

For about 20 minutes, it looked like the run might finally be over. With Bolton leading at Crystal Palace, their fourth round tie with Manchester City was set to bump neighbours Manchester United off the TV schedule, ending Uniteds run of 55 consecutive televised Cup ties. Instead, Christian Benteke steered Palace through, and United will make it 56 against Wigan Athletic. A home tie against a team 21st in the Championship would appear to serve little purpose beyond bolstering the ratings, but Sundays opposition do offer an intriguing subplot. Wigan manager Warren Joyce took over in November after eight years at Old Trafford in charge of the reserve side, where he was responsible for the development of Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, among many others who didnt make the grade. Perhaps the most notorious name on that list is Ravel Morrison, currently training with Wigan after being frozen out at Lazio. Its still a long shot, with no loan move confirmed at time of writing and Morrison obviously lacking match fitness, but the prospect of Morrison returning to Old Trafford may be worth tuning in for. NMc

Could Ravel Morrison return to Old Trafford? Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

6) City to experiment with Palace focusing on the league?

Selhurst Park will inevitably be noisy, but the visit of Manchester City may suffer from a lack of on-field intensity. Crystal Palaces run to the final last season placated fans as league form stagnated, but the situation is very different this time around, with Palace in the bottom three. Sam Allardyce has traditionally made his excuses early in the FA Cup the win over Bolton was just his third in the competition since 2009. Not for the first time, Pep Guardiola may view things differently to Allardyce; the City manager sent out a strong team against West Ham, and was so impressed he stuck with all ten outfield players against Everton, with widely publicised results. Another trip to the London Stadium awaits in the league on Wednesday, so Guardiola may employ a couple of returning players here. Vincent Kompany has completed just one match all season (the EFL Cup win over Swansea) while Fabian Delph has also suffered with persistent injury problems. Kompany, last seen at Selhurst Park in November, would be a very welcome addition to central defence, while Delph has previously hinted at a change to his previous midfield position, potentially trying out a full-back. This may be the right fixture to experiment, but Guardiola should not assume the same tricks will work on Wednesday. NMc

7) Millwall can celebrate against off-colour Watford

No-one likes them, they dont care; but enough about offshore property developers. Millwalls home tie with Watford will be a celebratory day in the sun for the hosts, broadcast live on the BBC and coming just four days after the threat of eviction was finally removed. As the club have stated, Lewisham council are yet to formally abandon a compulsory purchase order on land around the Den, but the news that mayor Sir Steve Bullock believes the CPO should not proceed has been greeted with widespread relief from supporters, and residents close to the clubs South London home. The murky regeneration plan for New Bermondsey has been on the table since 2014, when Millwall were in the same division as Sundays opponents. Watfords third-round win over Burton was their only success since mid-November, and it would almost be a surprise if the League One side, who dominated a depleted Bournemouth in the last round, did not celebrate their off-field victory with a place in the fifth round draw. NMc

Fans protesting the compulsory purchase order during the The FA Cup 3rd round match between Millwall and Bournemouth. Photograph: ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

8) Free-scoring Oxford and Newcastle face off

Expect goals at the Kassam Stadium as Oxford United, with 11 in their three FA Cup victories so far, take on Newcastle United, comfortably the Championships top scorers. Both sides won their last league fixture 4-0, while the visitors have the top four tiers leading scorer in Dwight Gayle. Whether Gayle will be called upon is another matter. Newcastles only concern this season is securing a Premier League return, and Rafa Benitez rotated his team accordingly to get past Birmingham with the help of a replay. Michael Appleton is also facing a selection dilemma, with a rearranged EFL Trophy quarter-final against Bradford on Tuesday offering a much more realistic route to Wembley. Having outclassed Rotherham in the third round and upset Swansea in last seasons competition, the Oxford manager might still find reason to believe that victory, and a first fifth-round appearance since 1994, is a more realistic prospect than it looks on paper. NMc

9) Will Leeds be flummoxed by Suttons pitch?

Artificial pitches are something of a rarity in top-level football, not seen in England since QPR and Lutons ill-starred experiments with astroturf, the last seen when Preston reverted to good old-fashioned grass in 1994. Leeds United will have to deal with one this weekend though, when they visit Sutton United. And Sutton manager Paul Doswell seems fairly confident that it will flummox the Championship promotion contenders. Without being over-emotional about it, we have got a good chance against Leeds on our pitch, said Doswell. No one likes playing on it apart from us it seems. We are very good on it. Indeed they are, having won nine of their 15 National League games on the 3G surface, and also holding League One Wimbledon to a draw there before knocking them out in the previous round. Still, even though Garry Monk will probably rest some first-teamers, as he did in the third round against Cambridge, Leeds may well reason that if Solihull Moors, Braintree Town and Dover Athletic can win at Gander Green Lane, they should stand a chance too. NM

10) Wycombe and Kashket deserve big moment

Given Tottenhams generally sparkling recent form they might be expected to brush aside League Two Wycombe with little fuss and plenty of team changes. Yet their opponents are on a roll too. Gareth Ainsworths team are unbeaten in all competitions over 16 matches and havent failed to score in a game since 22 October. Expect considerable focus on Wycombes little and large striking talents. Adebayo the beast Akinfenwa is well enough known for his formidable strength, durability and opportunistic WhatsApp-based contract appeals, but the diminutive Scott Kashket could be the player to keep more of an eye on at White Hart Lane. Demoralised and discarded at Leyton Orient last season, the 20-year-old forward has been an inspired addition to Ainsworths side and has rewarded the clubs faith in him with 14 goals in all competitions, including a hat-trick in the second-round win at League One Chesterfield. They gave me the chance to prove myself when nobody else would, and I want to pay them back by carrying on scoring goals for Wycombe, said Kashket, who signed a new deal with the club last month. When I came here I only signed a short term deal and needed to prove myself to get it extended. I did my bit and hoped they did theirs, which they did, so Im glad they had faith in me. Though Spurs are likely prevail on Saturday, Kashket and Wycombe deserve their day on the big stage. TD

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/jan/27/fa-cup-fourth-round-10-things-to-look-out-for-this-weekend